Thursday, August 31, 2006

Follow up to my previous post

So I wrote up a review for "Now You Know" on the Chapters website and submitted it. And I've waited... and waited... and waited. But no sign of my review after a few days. So either there was a technical glitch and my review got lost, they're slowly processing the reviews before posting them, or my review was rejected for some unknown reason.

I guess I'll try posting on Amazon instead (yeah, I'm bitter that I wasted money on this book).

Another update: Can't do that either. I haven't bought from Amazon in a long long time (and they actually don't have a record of the books I bought back when I was doing my Master's) so it won't let me review on their site.

Yet another update: (not .com) allowed me to submit a review. Now I wait and see if it gets accepted. Yes, I get too worked up about these things.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Book review (and it's not a comic)

I'm in a very bad mood and it's not because Elizabeth May won the Green Party leadership ... well, not entirely for that reason. Nope, I'm in a bad mood because I finally started to read "Now You Know: The Book of Answers" by Doug Lennox. For those who don't know me well, I have a bit of an obsession with knowing useless information (as my family may have learned when I did some searching into the causes bellybutton lint or the origins of "let them eat cake"... which is mistakenly attributed to Marie Antoinette). So when I saw this book (and the second volume) on sale a while back I thought it would be perfect. It's been sitting on my shelf for a while now but I needed a break from the "Physics of Superheroes" by James Kakalios (quantum physics and string theory can be a lot to absorb for someone who barely made it through first year physics) so I decided to give it a go. At about half way through I felt worse off then when I started.

The first thing that caught my eye was the answer to who is the woman in the Mona Lisa. I've spent a bit of time looking into Leonardo da Vinci and the Mona Lisa even before I read the Da Vinci Code (which also sent me on a fact finding mission... see the afore mentioned obsession) so I knew that currently the only answer to this question could only be a theory as it's never been proven. But there he goes saying it's Lisa Gherardini. Yes, most evidence points to this and it's the most popular theory but it would be extremely misleading to declare this as a statement of fact. Plus, he claims the original title of the painting was "La Gioconda" which is pretty much false. The painting was never given an "original title" as Leonardo never gave it one. It was given descriptive names until someone published their theory that it was a painting of Lisa Gherardini and at that point it was given the titles "Mona Lisa" and "La Gioconda".

So as I went on I started to question his other entries and just how thorough his "thorough research" was. Now I didn't have the time to look into all his facts so I decided to stick with ones that caught my eye. Some have proven to be true (the degree of their truth or correctness sometimes varies) while others are just theories (some of which have no evidence supporting them while others have evidence against them) and then there are the ones that are just plain wrong. Some tidbits:

- Chicago was referred to as the "Windy City" before the events he lists as the reason for the nickname. Though the events he cites may have cemented the name.

- Although there are many stories about "the real McCoy" referring to the boxer he mentions, you must also consider that the slogan "the real MacKay" was in use before the boxer. So the real origin may be tied into that and that's something you should mention in a book like this.

- Golf is not an acronym for "gentlemen only, ladies forbidden". I don't even want to dignify this one but the word "golf" and the game pre-date the Scottish social clubs he mentions and it seems to have come from the Dutch word for "club".

- Giving the finger predates the English/French battle he gives as the source (where the archers waved their fingers at the French who had threatened to cut them off). And the myth is actually that the 2 finger victory sign started there (not the finger) and that is generally regarded as false as well.

Now perhaps I'm just catching the only mistakes made in this book but I kinda doubt it given his willingness to present theories as fact. What irks me the most about all this is this book is labeled a "National Best-Seller" and has been followed up with several volumes. I only hope that his other volumes correct the mistakes made here or at least don't present false facts. Although I highly doubt it so there are a lot of people walking around thinking they know all this stuff and are completely oblivious to the fact that they may be wrong. So if you've read this book, you might want to reconsider believing anything you've read in it until you've confirmed it elsewhere. Otherwise, you'll be the one with egg on your face when you're proven wrong. And now you know.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Weekly comics review

I probably should be including the date the comics came out in my title. Oh well, that might look confusing since I don't post until 2 days after they come out. Anyhow, 3 books this week and I'll keep the spoilers for Astonishing X-Men to a minimum (just for you Carl, now get reading!).

Astonishing X-Men: I continue to love this series. Joss Whedon is a genius... yes, I said genius. In this issue we actually get a big reveal (I don't count the unmasking of the secret Hellfire Club member as their "reveal"... well, you'd have to read the book to understand). So the reveal is which mutant will supposedly be responsible for the destruction of Breakworld and it had a nice twist to it. There's just so much going on in this book that I don't have a clue where it's going to go and it's just an amazing ride, where ever it might be going. And the art continues to be stellar. I can't say enough about this series. I really lost interest in the X-universe when everyone and their dog became mutants but this book really gets to the core of the X-Men. The only downside, it only comes out every 2 months (but it's worth it).

Ultimates Annual #2: Isn't it funny when the "annuals" for a series comes out more frequently than the series itself? This one takes place after the current storyline (so we see some spoilers as to how it ends, but nothing major) but doesn't really bring anything new to the story and focusses on the issue of racism in America (and around the world). The story is nothing new, rather corny at times, and not really flushed out very well. Some stuff was thrown out there that left me a little lost (characters that I guess I was supposed to know more about before reading this book). I'm not a huge fan of Deodato's artwork and it didn't impress me here either. I generally find he's not a great storyteller. I don't find his panels flow very well and some of his panels end up being hard to figure out what's happening. When I have to stop in the middle of the action to try and figure out what's going on in one small panel it kills the momentum. One example is the part where a guy was looking down at a grenade that was thrown into his lap but the layouts don't really flow. The shot where he is looking down is a straight on shot of him from the waist up. From that distance and Deodato's "sloppy" style you can't really see his eyes well and he kinda looks like he just doesn't have any eyeballs. A close up shot of his face from below would have been better to show his emotion and what he's doing. Plus, the next panel (of the grenade) should be tied to this one (by being in close approximation) but it's back on the other side of the page. That's just one example of where Deodato loses me in the book. So it's an annual so you're probably wondering why I'm focussing on one story, well this annual only has the one story. So it's really just a Captain America/Falcon one shot. In the end, it was a highly disappointing book. But I can't wait to see the next issue of the Ultimates.

Elephantmen #2: I hate to say it but this issue kinda disappointed me. The overall story behind the series is interesting but this issue I felt was lacking. The one story with the crockman (it's kinda sad that I don't remember his name) being on a Howard Stern like show was an alright short story but it really doesn't fit in as one half of a regular issue. But then the second "story" doesn't really seem to work for me either. Maybe I've missed something but it's all just a fight between Hip Flask (the hippo) and the crock guy over a totem but you're just thrown into the fight. For someone new to the world of Elephantmen I found it a little lacking in story. So I just can't recommend this issue as much as the first Elephantmen book for the Hip Flask stuff I have read.

And to give an update on Divine Leap (for my one non-drunkduck reader... or the two drunkduck readers who may have found my blog), I'm still progressing on it. I have about 12 more pages to draw (so 20 are drawn), only about 10 of those are lettered, but I'm still posting them on drunkduck (Tuesdays and Thursdays). But I'm looking forward to finishing up the chapter (and finishing it with a bang). I'll admit it, the idea of doing chapter 2 is somewhat enticing (and I'm leaving the option out there with my ending to chapter 1) but it's just so much work for a book that continues to fail. Oh well.

Friday, August 18, 2006

A few things

I have a few things to rant/talk about so I'll try to make each of them short. First up, my weekly comics review and this week it was only one book (as I wasn't able to track down Hip Flask: Mystery City yet).

The Great and Secret Show #5: The art continues to be great. The writing is great. The cover (which I have failed to bring up for the previous issues) is great. I'm really enjoying this series and feel it's doing a great job of bringing the novel to a new medium. My only gripe, with the length of time between issues and the story containing several characters all intertwining it can be hard to remember where things left off in the last issue. You usually remember the big cliffhanger ending but not where all the little subplots left off. So maybe this is one area where converting a novel to a monthly comic might falter slightly. But it could be easily fixed by me digging out the last issue or just waiting until I have the series (or at least a few issues) before I read them all at once. Anyways, still enjoying this book a lot.

Second up, another mention of As Carl and Dave R have learned, I've been kinda hooked on lurking around in their forums for the last little bit. It really has been an eye opening experience and has really made a difference in how I read and look at comics. And it's made me re-think a few things in my own webcomic (mostly around the character Syarah). Unfortunately some of it I can't change at the moment (as I made the decision right from the start to just keep moving forward and not look back or else I'd never be satisfied with issue 1) but as I'm filling in some of the dialogue to issue 7 (which I just started posting on Drunk Duck) I've made a few changes here and there.

And in a rather weird twist, I move now to the rock band Kiss. I heard a short time ago that a somewhat large group of Kiss fans marched to the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame to protest the fact that they've been elligible since 1999 but have never been inducted. Some say that they weren't talented and were just a "circus act" or what have you but as a Kiss fan I say look at their 30 year track record. Look at their album sales. Look at their sold out concerts over those 30 years. Look at their merchandise sales. Look at people they've influenced from Tommy Lee and Motley Crue to Tone Loc to Garth Brooks. Sure, they focussed on putting on a "show" for their fans with the make up, the fireworks, the blood, but that's part of Rock 'n' Roll (in large part to Kiss).

And my final thought, this is the first time that fans of a rock 'n' roll band have marched on the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame to protest. To me, that says something right there. That a band can be around for 30 years and carry enough fans that are passionate about them to protest is a pretty big indication of the impact they've had on rock 'n' roll.

I think there was something else I wanted to rant about but it's not coming to me at the moment. Oh well, couldn't have been important (like any of the above is).

Sunday, August 13, 2006

An extra comic review

I was able to pick up a copy of Hip Flask #2: Elephantmen (originally published in 2003) but I'll make this review short. This is a very beautiful comic with great all around art. The story is beginning to progress and it's an intriguing one. The use of the "Elephantmen" as a reflection of many of the problems we face today (and problems we will always face) maybe hits you in the face a little too hard at times but it's still an important story. And the little tidbits that they come up with (the little frog that wants to rub the hippo's feet and such) really are enjoyable to see. The only complaint (and as you'll see, it's a minor one) is that they insist on making the speech bubbles semi-transparent. I guess one possible reason is that they want to try to avoid taking over the artwork but if that's the case, I would tell them that the artwork should not be the focus of the reader's attention. If the words the characters speak aren't as important as the background then you aren't saying much about the story/writing. The times that the speech bubbles were most noticeable (when there was heavy drawn detailed stuff behind them) I was kinda left wondering if they were whispering (so the writer was forcing the reader to look more carefully just as someone who was listening would have to listen more carefully). But since it was the same throughout the book (only more noticeable on certain panels) I can only guess they weren't all whispering all the time. Either way, I didn't think it was a good idea.

Anyhow, with the series kicking in I'd recommend picking these up to anyone looking for something "new" to read (maybe someone wanting to spread out from the big 2 comic companies).

Friday, August 11, 2006

Renaissance trailer

I've seen this trailer popping up and I'm a little bit curious about it. I've heard the story isn't as together as it could be but that the animation is rather interesting. And from the trailer, I do have to say I'm interested in seeing how it looks on the big screen for an hour and a half (or however long it is). I guess with the market being saturated with computer animation it's nice to see movies still trying other stuff.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Weekly Comic Reviews

Yep, read through them already. And I'm even going to include a review of the Wizard How To Draw: Character Creation that I finally picked up last week. This week we have Hulk, She-Hulk, and Civil War: Frontline.

Hulk: Another solid issue. Things are starting to come to a head. How do I know this? Well, the Hulk said he wanted to be left alone and tried to walk away. That's always a sign that things are about to get nasty. And this book has everyone's powers shown. We have the Hulk showing feats of strength, some smarts, and not even flinching when Miek put a spear in his chest (although it didn't go in too far). The Emperor toasts a few people and his Lieutenant starts to show her stuff (powers that is). And getting back to Miek, he seems to be having a tough time getting past the whole slaughter of his people. And seeing the end of this book and the preview for the next issue (which talks about the Hulk and the Lieutenant finally battling it out) I think we might be in for a slobberknocker of an issue. This issue even seemed to be better written (better flow) than some of Pak's other issues. And the art remains quite cool.

She-Hulk: Shulkie seems rather passive about the whole registration thing. But I guess that's not too far off character for her. We have the Pugsly, Jameson, She-Hulk love triangle bubbling over and the identity of her new boss figured out (with the reveal ending in a comedic although slightly predictable fashion which still leaves She-Hulk out of the loop). Although the reveal makes sense given the previews to upcoming issues (I gotta stop reading the previews). The writing was well done, the art was well done. The book continues to impress me. And we're finally getting more to the story concerning Starfox.

Civil War: Frontline -- Osborne is out and threatening Jameson while Stark's people claim he's still in prison (moving Stark more and more into the badguy role). Jameson believes Stark's people and fires Eurich. Eurich's friend (the female reporter, I can't remember her name) is arrested for associating with unregistered combatants (they're starting to use anti-terror laws to do this). Wonder Man is blackmailed into service (it seems he's starting to realize that registering might not be a good thing) to look into a possible sleeper agent (who we know works for Namor). But the big one is Speedball who is taken to the secret prison Reed Richards has been working on (She-Hulk even knew about this but was supposedly reluctant to tell Speedball about). I won't say too much about it except 1) I'm surprised that this reveal was done in Frontline and not the regular series, 2) Reed Richards and anyone else involved in the making of this prison aren't looking too good right now (it's not a nice place to send "heroes", it makes sense I guess, but it's not nice). I was thinking about not spoiling it for Carl but I guess that doesn't make sense, it won't be a shocker put in Civil War as readers will already know about it thanks to this series. So here it is, Reed Richards built the prison in the Negative Zone. So another issue, if he believed Annihilus was still in the Negative Zone then it might be somewhat dangerous to leave the heroes imprisonned there. There are also the issues of what effects the Negative Zone has on people (which is brought up slightly in this issue) and how time is different. Unless the prison is near the center of the zone the time will be off. For every hour on earth, 2 weeks pass in the Negative Zone. So if the heroes are left there for one day (our time) it will seem like 48 weeks for the prisoners. Hopefully that has been accounted for or else these heroes are in deep poopoo (and Reed Richards would be a total @$$). All in all this book was good. And I'm totally used to the various stories now. The one downer was the mirror story (the one where they have something written about a war from history and show mirror images of the old war with this Civil War). I haven't been a big fan of these and this one talks about two brothers fighting each other in the US Civil War but they show pictures of Spidey and Iron Man fighting some two bit heroes. It doesn't seem to really mirror the two. A better mirror would be Cap and Iron Man fighting one another, they would be closer to brothers. Anywho, the story continues to keep me intrigued.

I could now rant about how some people on various forums are dismissive of this storyline in Marvel and just scoff at the idea that a person's civil rights would be a concern to heroes such as Captain America but I'll keep that for another time.

Lastly we have the Wizard How to Draw that I picked up last week (it was actually a few months old but Silver Snail sold out of them and then I just forgot). I've reviewed a couple of the Wizard How to's on here and this one is the same. A few new tidbits and a lot of rehashes of stuff from the first book. And this one is really noticeable as it's a stretch to see why "Movement and Motion" and "Making Characters Move" are in a book about "Character Creation". But there do seem to be a few somewhat decent ones (like Chapter 3 which has a bunch of sections on creating your stereotypical super male, super female, sidekick, etc. But all in all, it just doesn't seem worth the money. You'd probably be better off looking through the books at your local library or checking out chapters for more comprehensive books on the subject.

Women of/in comics

I wish I had more time to read some of the discussion going on in the forums here:

I did read a bit of one thread discussing Joss Whedon (although I'm thinking the original discussion about him turning Emma Frost evil might be premature). In some ways he may have become a bit of a target by being labelled a feminist. Now his work might be scrutinized a bit more and held to a different standard than your average comic book writer. Frank Miller on the other hand... well, it's Frank Miller. I didn't see it but hopefully they discuss Rob Leifeld as well.

Another discussion about fighting raises a few issues as well. How to deal with violence towards female characters. Take for example the JLA/Avengers crossover where Superman eventually beats Thor by knockout (sorry to say it Carl) and then gets jumped by Hercules, Iron Man, Wonderman, She-Hulk, Vision and maybe a few others who beat him into unconciousness. What if it was changed up so Superman beats Ms Marvel into unconciousness? Would Superman look as heroic then? And what if it wasn't Superman that the heroes ganged up on, what if it was Wonder Woman? Or, possibly even worse, Supergirl? Would this be still a heroic battle? Would this now fall into promoting violence towards women? You could say that this kind of thing is why it's just easier to match up female heroes with female antagonists, there are fewer issues with a female character being hit by another female character.

And isn't it ironic that I post this on the day that I plan to pick up the latest issue of not only the Hulk but also of She-Hulk. :)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Ferguson Family Reunion Recap

With the end of the long weekend also comes the end of the Ferguson family reunion. I've been told we had over 50 of us in Ottawa at one point. Fortunately (for me at least) my cousin Danielle took the brunt of it. In fact, I only had two cousins stay at my place for one night so I had it pretty good. Although I'm left pondering how nobody wanted to stay at my place.

Anyhow, the weekend went well. We had a lot of fun, too much sun (especially for those of us with a little less hair), and I think everyone had a good time. It was nice to see everyone even if, with all the people, you didn't really have too much time to spend with any one relative in particular. And some relatives had never actually met one another until now. One major highlight was the DVD and calendar my cousin Erick made up. The DVD has a photo tribute to Mary Ferguson (my grandmother) which was put to music as well as a much lighter montage of pictures of the various family members. And the calendars also are made up of pictures. They were both extremely well done and I'd be eager to show them off to anyone who'd sit through them. I'd even include some stories of my childhood and how I could just imagine how happy my grandmother and my uncle Johnny would have been at this reunion if they were still with us today.

But enough of that, it's starting to get me down (and I probably should try to get some work done). So this week I have to get back to work on my online comic, Divine Leap. I have 19 pages of issue 7 scanned in and ready to be lettered and it currently sits at 15 more pages to go before I'm finished. I'm planning to start posting them on drunkduck this Thursday with an update schedule of two pages per week.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Weekly comics review

Sorry, no comics this week. But hopefully my previous rants keep you entertained for the time being. :)

Oh yeah,bunnies

With all the negativity of that last entry I totally forgot about this link. It's movies re-enacted by cartoon bunnies in 30 seconds:

Be warned though that some clips have foul language or scenes of bunny violence and/or sexuality.

I'd love to see a Lord of the Rings or Spider-Man one.

Spinning the truth, lying, whatever you want to call it, it's just depressing

So I've really been getting into the Daily Show with John Stewart (as well as the Colbert Report) but last night's episode rubbed me the wrong way. The director of "Who Killed the Electric Car?" was on to discuss/promote the movie. Now I don't necessarily fault John Stewart for my unhappyness as his show is an entertainment show and shown on Comedy Central so it's not really to be expected to go as deep into a story as say a news show should (a point that he got across very well on his Crossfire appearance I might add) but I still feel the need to vent. And what good is a blog if it doesn't have some venting? It should be noted that I haven't seen the documentary myself and I still want to so I'm just going off what I've heard so far but I think that my concerns are still justified.

So here goes. When I first saw the trailer for this movie I was hooked. I really wanted to know more about the EV1 and what the backstory is on this documentary. So off to google I went. After reading a few reviews and such for this movie that all touted how great it was and described some of the "facts" of the case I was starting to get right into the whole conspiracy. Then Wikipedia came along with a few twists. It had a couple tidbits from the other side... well from the GM side of things at least. So I was intrigued. I started to focus more on the GM response to the conspiracy theories and sure enough, I've been able to find a few little tidbits including a blog entry from a GM representative. And it was interesting to see some facts presented by the other side like just how much money GM put into the EV1 (a number that might actually be lower than it should because it doesn't seem to cover some stuff like how much of a hit GM took for leasing a $150K car for $500/month... something that might have been covered up a bit so shareholders wouldn't be as upset). It was also interesting to see that out of the 5000 person waiting list that was reported only 50 of these people were willing to follow through on the lease after they learned more about the cars and some of their drawbacks (such as the optimum number of kilometers that the car would get on one charge was never met and might leave people stranded and the recharging was a pain and took a long time). Or how selling the cars after the lease period could result in very negative feedback if anyone was to be hurt (part suppliers were no longer willing to supply parts for the cars so GM would have a really difficult time in making sure the vehicles stayed supported and safe, supposedly some people who leased the cars were willing to sign a waiver but we all know that the existence of such a waiver wouldn't matter if someone was killed, we'd just be seeing a documentary about how GM sold dangerous vehicles). And despite some reviews (but possibly not the documentary, I can't say for sure without seeing it) saying the vehicle had 0 impact on the environment it did (the power had to be generated somewhere, now a powerplant could do so with far fewer emmissions than your standard vehicles but it's not 0 impact). Now I could go on and on but the question is, was any of this covered in the "documentary"? The answer seems to be nope, at least from what I've seen and read, and from the director's interview last night when he said that GM refused to tell him why they couldn't let him have the car.

But enough of the nitpicky stuff, that's not what this is about (at least not in the global scheme of things). What irks me is the spin. In political terms I lean to the "left" but I keep the option of dipping my toes onto the "right" side if I feel it necessary. In terms of the environment I do believe our pollution is having a negative effect on the planet and we need to do something about it but I'm not eager to give up my air-conditioning just yet (although I'll turn it up a degree or two). So when I first heard about this documentary I had high hopes for it but as I look into it more it comes across as this guy with a gripe pushing his own agenda rather than truly trying to inform the general public of a great advancement in automobiles. What does this do for me? Well it makes me want to stop listening to him. When I discover people aren't being entirely truthful with me then it makes me wonder what else they are spinning. So despite his supposedly good intentions, I start to doubt everything he says.

The same thing happened to me with Michael Moore's movies. After watching Bowling for Columbine and Farenheit 9/11 I decided to look for responses to these two movies. Sure enough, the backlash was plenty. And after sifting through all those responses (much of which also had spin, lies, untruths, personal insults, and a bunch of other garbage) I was able to find a few nuggets that show Moore was guilty of a bit of viewer manipulation. Fortunately he has tried responding to some things but there are a few arguments there really is no response to. And at this point, I've heard Moore hide behind the "it's a movie/entertainment" defense. So it's a researched documentary when he wants it to be and a movie or "entertainment" when it suits him.

All of this makes me understand a bit better why some of the "right wing" people (or people with differing views) get slightly hostile towards these documentary filmers. Now some might say that the opponents of these films (or the politicians/businesses they support) are guilty of the same tactics. They might even say that they are more guilty or started it first but doesn't that start to sound like a 6 year-old's defense? "Sure I kicked my brother in the head but he started it!" Somehow the good intentions of the message get clouded by the muck that surrounds it and it loses its luster.

Then I turn to the Green Party campaigns. From what I understand, David Chernushenko has asked that Elizabeth May's finances be looked into after she did two press tours but didn't count them as part of her campaign costs (there's a limit as to how much she can spend) despite one tour being promoted briefly on her campaign site (said to have been a mistake that was corrected quickly) and her people selling Green Pary memberships at one speach. Now both sides are putting their spin on things with the Chernushenko camp pointing out that she has had to concede that one of her speaches would have to be paid for through the campaign while May is labelling the request as dirty politics, pointing out that David is losing in polls (nice of her to point that out) and that he's doing this just before the votes are to be mailed in (so he's supposed to hold off on looking into these claims until when?). To be honest, I don't find either side handling themselves particularly well but I have no problem with Chernushenko raising the question of her finances if it's warranted (and in this case, it might have been).

I have been having some trouble recently finding my happy place. There are a few reasons for this but all of the above doesn't help that's for sure. It gets harder and harder to really believe or trust anyone. You start to wonder who you can trust. Maybe you think of your parents but then there's the whole Easter Bunny and Santa Claus fiascos. I guess the bottom line for me is that if you want me to listen to what you have to say then you're going to have to convince me that I should. And it sucks that I feel that I have to take such a pessimistic view of the world.

Wow! What a rant huh?